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October 9, 2008
Given their recent struggles, any victory for Bangladesh is significant, but the seven-wicket win over New Zealand in Mirpur was even more special as it was a first major win (if you exclude the Twenty20 victory over West Indies in 2007) for both their captain and coach. Mohammad Ashraful and Jamie Siddons have come under scrutiny recently, but this win, in the face of the ICL crisis, will have come as reassurance for fans and administrators alike.
"I am happy we played as a unit," Ashraful said. "I am elated that its the first win against New Zealand and first against a major country under my captaincy."
It was a comprehensive team performance from Bangladesh after Ashraful got lucky at the toss. Mashrafe Mortaza struck vital blows in his first spell, which was backed up by some economical bowling by the spinners Abdur Razzak, Shakib Al Hasan and debutant Naeem Islam.
"The toss was very important," Ashraful told TigerCricket.com. "With the overnight rain and the cloud cover we needed the bowlers to have a go first. I want to compliment everyone - Mashrafe, [Syed] Rasel, Shahadat [Hossain], Shakib, Razzak, Naeem ... they set up the win for us with some wonderful bowling.
"The fielding too was good," Ashraful said. "I have said this before, if we do well in all three departments then we stand a good chance of being competitive. Today was proof of that."
Mortaza, one of the heroes of Bangladesh's famous World Cup upset over India in 2007, put New Zealand on the back foot with figures of 8-3-19-3 in his first spell. He took some punishment in his final two overs to end with 4 for 44, but was unlucky a dropped catch in the 50th over denied him a five-for.
Mortaza was playing with braces on both knees - having had operations on them in the past - but hit the right line and length, troubling the batsmen with movement off the seam. "He does that for us day in and day out." Siddons said. "He doesn't always get the results because opposing teams tend to see him off and then attack the others, but today was his day."
At one stage, New Zealand were down to 79 for 6, and perhaps the only gripe in Bangladesh's performance would be that they let New Zealand escape to 201 for 9.
However, Bangladesh's batsmen, criticised for their failures against Australia, stood up to the task with Ashraful himself scoring a brisk unbeaten 60. The star of the day , though, was Junaid Siddique, whose patient 85 easily eclipsed the 62 he had managed in his eight previous ODI innings. "I needed this innings to get my confidence back," Siddique said. "My one-day record has been quite ordinary and it was about time I got some runs.
"We just executed the team plan today and we won. We always try to play according to plan but had difficulty in implementing them in recent times. Everything however fell into place today."
Siddique also paid tribute to Khaled Mashud, the former Bangladesh captain and wicketkeeper, who was given a farewell by both teams during the innings break. Mashud recently announced his retirement from international cricket, and has been Siddique's domestic captain at Rajshahi.
"He has been an idol," Siddique said. "We grew up knowing only two international stars from Rajshahi, Mashud and Mushfiqur Rahman. He has been an inspiration for so many players and he has been the hardest working cricketer I have seen. I dream of emulating him someday."
Mashud was confident this team would be able to achieve further glories for Bangladesh. "What a super way to sign off. The Bangladesh team has given me a present I will cherish for ever. These are lads who are going to take us to the next level. Mark my words. I just feel privileged to be here saying goodbye today."
One man entrusted with that job is Siddons, who hoped the team would have learnt how to approach matches after this victory. The ICL exodus meant Bangladesh named three new players in the squad, and Siddons was pleased with Naeem's effort on debut. "Well the one debutant, Naeem, did a great job with the ball [10-0-34-0] and was probably our best fielder today. Losing players from the group is never good and I hope that doesn't happen again, but the team looked good out there."
As Siddons has said in the past, he's keen on building a team that performs consistently and not one which pulls off a rare win for fans to clutch on to. Siddique echoed his coach's sentiments this time around. "We have a lot of work left in this series. This is only a good start and we can't lose focus. The series is still open."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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